The Write Path – Excerpt
Labor or Leisure?
You can never tell when a writer is working
What is work to a writer? This is not a question we’d ask if we were contemplating the daily efforts of a plumber or a sales clerk, a barista or a lawyer, a carpenter, a nurse, or a bus driver. That work is visible and self-evident. It happens in front of us, straightforward, understandable. The plumber unclogs a drain. The clerk rings up a sale. The barista pulls a shot.
But what of the writer?
Thumb tacked to a shelf above my computer, in my writing room, is a file card on which I have scrawled a quote from Wallace Stevens. Stevens was a successful New York lawyer and a big-time insurance company executive before he began the much harder work of becoming a Pulitzer prize-winning poet.
Here’s the line:
“It is not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and looking out the window.”
Writing is thinking, or thinking made manifest; thoughts ordered, set down, crafted, honed and polished. So what Stevens is really saying, or what he is saying to me, every day, many times a day, when I look up at this quote is: It is not easy to tell when a writer is working. Whew. That’s a relief. Because if you were here right now watching me work, this is what you’d see:
Me looking out the window.